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Partick Thistle V Motherwell – 8th April 2017

After a spirited win against Ross County last weekend, Partick Thistle became just the third team to take points from Celtic with an impressive 1-1 draw away to the Scottish champions. That result, combined with Kilmarnock’s failure to take all three points from Rangers, meant that a top six finish could be secured by Saturday evening. Indeed Killie must win at Celtic Park to keep any reasonable hopes of reaching sixth as the Ayrshire side’s inferior goal difference makes a draw near to useless.

Top six qualification is firmly in the Jags’ own hands though as a Thistle win at home to Motherwell would guarantee a top half finish regardless of results elsewhere. Jags boss, Alan Archibald, spoke to ahead of what could be a historic weekend for his side.

Archie was still brimming with pride after his team’s excellent second half showing at Parkhead on Wednesday night.

“Everyone was obviously delighted to take a point from what must be considered the single toughest fixture of the season. It didn’t feel like we would have been able to take anything if we had continued where we left off in the first half. We were up against it, Celtic were rampant and, to be honest, we couldn’t get near them. Thankfully, we were much better in the second half, we improved our ball retention and that got us a bit more of a foothold in the game. We also created a few chances which was important.”

Previously this season Thistle went to Celtic Park and put in a good showing but came away with nothing, so the gaffer was happy to be able to take points from the game, fine reward for the good second half performance.

“Everybody looks at going to Parkhead and sees anything they get as a bonus but you also want to avoid a heavy defeat because that will affect confidence going forward. The draw keeps our unbeaten run going as well, that’s up to seven games now, and there were other plus points too.

“We had a young squad there, if you take Tomas Cerny out then I think the average age of the squad is around 23 and we had young Andrew McCarthy getting his chance from the start as well. Overall, there were a lot of positives to take and confidence is high heading into the weekend’s game which will be a tough one.”

Looking towards Saturday’s match, Archibald is focused on getting a win against Motherwell which would put things to bed, irrespective of Killie’s result.

“Unlike last year, it’s in our own hands. If we don’t make it then we would only have ourselves to blame. We know exactly what we need to do and all the players are motivated by the fact that we can lay any doubts to rest against Motherwell.”

Despite a poor start to the season, Archie has been thrilled with the way his side have performed since the winter break and believes that based on that form, they deserve to be in the top six.

“Both us and Killie have put a good run together and whoever does make sixth in the end will deserve it. Whichever side misses out will feel hard done by. We’ve done well since Christmas and massive credit goes to the players. Last time we went to Parkhead, we were at the foot of the table but we managed to string some good results together and I’ve been more than happy with that.”

Alan Archibald’s side now sit closer to fifth place Hearts than Kilmarnock and although confirming top six is still the focus for now, the Thistle boss realises that Hearts’ lead isn’t an unassailable one.

“I think that it’s about focusing on one goal at a time. Every time we hit a target, we have a chance to reassess and reset our targets. First and foremost, we want to reach that top six and then we’ll have a look at things after that and, you never know.”

The Jags’ manager then expanded on his comments regarding his team’s turnaround, citing his belief in his side’s qualities.

“Of course there was worry and concern but the important factor for us, when we were on a poor run, was that we were still creating chances although we couldn’t quite score at the right times. I’ve been asked what the difference is on several occasions and for me it’s that we are getting those goals at vital points and we’ve been keeping clean sheets more regularly. For the most part, we’ve been conceding fewer goals in the last five minutes of games too which has helped us add consistency to our game and put a run together as a team.”

Archie also knows how much a top six finish will mean to the club, especially when looking back at where the club has come from in the past five years.

“It would be great. I’ll talk a bit more about what an achievement it is when we’ve actually confirmed it because as I’m sure all the Thistle fans know; we hardly ever do things the easy way so I’ll wait until we get there and if we do get there on Saturday then we can really enjoy it.”

The Thistle boss was also keen to highlight the impressive league debut of 18-year old Andrew McCarthy who put in a splendid performance on a huge day for the young midfielder.

“I was very pleased with Andy. He played 60 minutes on Monday with the development side and I don’t think he knew he was playing at the time of that game but we went over the shape on Tuesday morning and he was a bit shocked to be getting a start. The plan was for him to mark Scott Brown to the best of his ability but he ended up playing against Nir Bitton so I was impressed with his ability to adapt. He grew into the game and I think that seeing him play is great for the club. It shows the boys that are currently in the youth system that they will be given a chance if they work hard and keep at it.”

Thistle’s next game is that all-important clash with Motherwell tomorrow and kick-off is at 15:00.

A more in depth video interview with Alan Archibald is now available to Jagzone subscribers. Log in now to see it. Jagzone members will also be able to watch highlights of the game from midnight.

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